Conservation in Context: A Comparison of Conservation Perspectives in a Mexican Protected Area
The conservation of biodiversity in protected areas depends on the interests and agendas of stakeholders involved in the planning and enforcing of management actions. The challenge, therefore, has been to identify and include the perspectives of multiple participants important to local conservation. This paper describes the social context in which local conservation is conducted in a natural protected area in Yucatan, Mexico. In particular, it examines the agreement and expectations among local stakeholders on the main goals the reserve should achieve. Through participatory observation and semi-structured interviews, we analyzed the perceptions on conservation of the five groups relevant to the area management: 1) local people; 2) conservation government agency; 3) scientists; 4) non-governmental organization, and 5) a tourist agency. All actors agreed that the protected area should fulfill two main goals: i) to conserve biodiversity and, ii) to improve local welfare and development. In general, ecotourism is perceived as the best option for protecting the forest and promoting local development. Traditional agriculture, on the other hand, is perceived as the main conservation threat, but recognized as a crucial component of local wellbeing. We discuss these results in the context of the Yucatan Peninsula.
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